The Fathers Were Not Protestants

The Early Church Fathers did not Defend the Protestant Doctrine of "Sola Scripture" as Some Protestants Outrageously Claim.

This is basically a re-posting of something I wrote on X/Twitter. I won’t spend much time re-dressing it. I’d rather keep it plain and simple.

While doing a bit of research for my next podcast episode on Scripture, I came across some protestant claims that the early Church Fathers defended a fundamental protestant belief—Sola Scripture. I just about flipped my lid because the arguments were insane and relied on distorting patristic theology and writings. That’s like insulting my own family!

According to various protestant theological circles the Early Church Fathers defended Sola Scriptura—the belief that scripture alone is the sole authority for Christian faith and practice. Perhaps at some point I’ll devote an entire podcast episode to respond to this absurdity, but for now I wanted to focus on one prominent source they use to substantiate it, Irenaeus of Lyons, in Against Heresies.

“We have known the method of our salvation by no other means than those by whom the gospel came to us; which gospel they truly preached; but afterward, by the will of God, they delivered to us in the Scriptures, to be for the future the foundation and pillar of our faith.” (St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies)

My Response


That quote actually points to Tradition, even if not explicit; “[those methods]by whomthe gospel came to us…” is apostolic Tradition, which precedes the written scripture. So, the fundamental authoritative pillar is apostolic Tradition (Scripture is the other, but “scripture alone” is an unsupportable farce).

In the same series as quoted above, “Against Heresies,” Irenaeus also wrote, “For, while the languages of the world are diverse, nevertheless, the authority of the tradition is one and the same.

And, “With this church, because of its superior origin, all churches must agree—that is, all the faithful in the whole world—and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition.”

Irenaeus wouldn’t place such consistent emphasis on Tradition if he genuinely believed, as alleged, that scripture alone was sufficient.

Pro Tradition

Some pro-Tradition quotes by other Church Fathers:

“From them has come down to us in writing, the sound and orthodox faith received from tradition”
-Eusebius of Caesarea

We see there that the Bible comes from Tradition, not the other way around. Christianity comes from Tradition, not the other way around.

“That alone is to be believed as the truth which is in no way at variance with ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition.”

Protestants, I love you, and I remain focused on what we have in common. But as your brother, I need to tell you that you are living a partial distortion of the True faith and supporting it with fairy tales labeled as “Christian history” and fables labeled as “What Catholics believe.”

Enough already! If you so admire the Fathers, live the faith that they lived—they were Catholic

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